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St. Augustine Beach makes New Year's Eve changes for bike safety

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Updated: 1/05 4:04 pm
ST AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. -- In a county with numerous unsolved hit-and-run incidents, leaders are taking big steps to make it safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.

St. Johns County has seen more than its fair share of bike and pedestrian deaths in the last few years. Many of the cases still haven't been solved.

"When Bryan was killed, I cried. When Christian was killed, I cried a little bit, but I was in shock," said Heather Neville.

Bicyclist Bryan Wrigley was hit and killed in 2011. Christian Schroom was killed in November 2012. Numerous hit-and-run cases have followed, like 45-year-old Randy Miller and 15-year-old Haley Smith, both this past November. No one has been arrested in any of these incidents.

"There's an issue, and we've got to solve it," Neville said.

Awareness is the reason Neville started "Velofest." This year, she pushed for changes at St. Augustine Beach's two-day New Year's Eve festivities.

She was a little surprised when the city agreed.

"We're offering a bike valet service at the beach blast off in St. Augustine beach. That way people know they have somewhere to park their bikes," she said.

The road is also being barricaded from vehicle traffic.

St. Augustine Beach police chief Robert Hardwick said they had problems last year.

"The street was very dangerous for pedestrians to be walking to and from their cars and to the trolley drop off point. This year, we're trying something different with closing the street down," said Hardwick.

Neville said more bikes actually cause fewer problems, and she hopes this is a start to a county-wide transformation.

"We need to show this is an actual way of transportation that we can reduce traffic congestion - which, in effect, will put more bikes on the road, which will actually makes it safer," Neville said.

The bike valet is free and so is the event. Organizers are expecting upwards of 25,000 people Tuesday.

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